I had a crazy dream last night. I thought Hanley Ramirez and Tim Lincecum had joined the Orioles. Or maybe it was just a rough night at the bar.
From Monday's discussion, it looks like many of you agree that Ramirez would be the top selection if the Orioles were allowed an expansion draft of current MLB talent. But only a few agreed that San Francisco's Tim Lincecum should be the second choice. Really, it's hard to argue with any of the other suggestions: Jimmy Rollins, David Wright, Roy Halladay and Brandon Webb, to name a few.
I think we all agree that the Orioles' primary holes are shortstop, starting pitching and a power bat, preferably at first base. Which is the most pressing need is arguable, since the Orioles probably won't get too far without having at least moderate success in filling each.
Let's move past the dream world and into the near-fantasy realm of actual baseball economics. The non-waiver trade deadline is Thursday at 4 p.m., and as I wrote in my Sunday column, the Orioles have one actual commodity that they may consider dealing: closer George Sherrill.
Second baseman Brian Roberts has plenty of value, but I just don't expect the Orioles to trade him this month. Maybe this winter, but not by Thursday. We'll get to Sherrill – and maybe Roberts -- later this week, but I want to concentrate on another veteran today.
The Orioles have plenty of other pieces that aren't part of the 2010 and beyond plan: first baseman Kevin Millar and outfielder Jay Payton are both free agents at the end of this season. Relievers Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker, third baseman Melvin Mora, catcher Ramon Hernandez and designated hitter Aubrey Huff are all free agents at the end of 2009.
Mora has a full, no-trade clause until then, so there's no point in discussing his trade value. There is little or no market for Millar, Payton, Bradford and Walker other than maybe a low-level, low-ceiling prospect. Certainly not legitimate building blocks for the future. All of those guys likely will pass through waivers and will be eligible for trade in August, too, if a market develops.
Hernandez once had plenty of value, but not now. Not in the midst of a mediocre season with $8 million due next year. It's unlikely a team would even take him off waivers and pick up that full contract.
That leaves Huff, who has already reached the 20-homer plateau for the sixth time in seven seasons. On paper alone, his superb season should give him plenty of trade value. But various baseball people have told us clubs aren't clamoring for him.
First, he is owed roughly half of the $20 million, backloaded contract he signed in December 2006. That includes $8 million for 2009, and that's a lot of money to pay even in the cartoonish world of baseball salaries.
Secondly, he is primarily a DH, limiting the market for his services. Honestly, Huff is adequate at first and third – and he could play the outfield in a pinch. But a club would have to have some seriously disposable income, a large offensive hole and a deep farm system to give up anything of worth for a good bat with defensive limitations.
Or the Orioles would have to eat a lot of Huff's contract to get a deal done. And before you point the finger at owner Peter Angelos and say he simply should eat it if it means getting a prospect or two, remember this. Angelos is already stuck with paying the 2008-09 salary of Jay Gibbons ($11.9 million) and basically that of injured reliever Danys Baez ($10 million-plus for 2008-09) as well as a combined $1 million-plus for failed staff members Sam Perlozzo, Leo Mazzone and Jim Duquette.
These were the mistakes of his previous front office, and he's paid for them. So I am sure it wouldn't sit well to do it again with someone who has been productive such as Huff (or Hernandez, for that matter). And another dead contract could limit what the club is willing to spend next year.
Because of the lack of market, Huff likely will be here in August, and like everyone else, he'll be offered for waivers – because if he passes through he could be dealt in August. He likely will be claimed as a defensive move by some club (and Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones also will be) and then the Orioles will probably pull him/them back. But the Orioles could let the claiming team take Huff and his salary.
It's an interesting dilemma: Keep Huff, enjoy his success this year and canvass the offseason trade market; eat a large part of his contract and get a potential, but not guaranteed building block now; or let a team that claims him on waivers take him and save $10 million to use on someone else next year.
Daily Think Special: What do you do with Aubrey Huff at the trade deadline?